What is mindful painting? Painting has many functions and benefits. An artist could, for example, paint formal portraits for most of the day. Then in an unguarded moment sketch out an abstract image far removed from her usual work. Have you found yourself doodling without a thought? Has the drawing surprised you? Do you wonder why you drew that image?
Often we need to paint, draw and sketch for reasons not entirely clear. But the activity makes us feel better. In its simplest form this is mindfulness. Creating intuitively.
You may be wondering what is the purpose of mindfulness? In this article I will give you an introduction to this topic. Plus a few videos to demonstrate mindful painting in practice.
What Does Mindfulness Mean?
In a typical painting lesson I will focus on methods and techniques to achieve a result. The purpose will be to identify and practice formal painting skills. But in mindfulness the painting skill or techniqes are not important. What counts is the process of creating.
Painting expressively in a free manner guided only by color and motion of the brush is the path to mindful creation.
The second part to this is your emotional state. When you are creating in this manner you will relax more. You could become absorbed into the moment. Without any particular thought or concern for what is going on around you. This calm state can be compared to meditation in many ways. Anxiety fades away. The usual mind chatter falls silent.
Complex or Simple
The final result is not the issue. What is important is how the process made you feel. Some paintings may be highly complex. Consider a Jackson Pollock abstract painting. The painting may be basic in shape and form. Think of a childlike painting. Bold, flat shapes of color. Symbolic in nature.
In the video below I show a basic expressive portrait painting using poster paints. You could try a similar approach to a self-portrait. The colors, approach and process may reveal something about you. Then again it may not. The interpretation, if relevant, is something for a trained therapist.
Why a self-portrait? We are able to focus on what w are doing much easier this way. After all most people are ego driven and this in itself is a problem. But do we take the time to look closer? So this exercise involves some introspection too. This exercise also compels most people to pay attention to the process and be in the moment
Can You Relax for a Moment?
In our goal of mindful creativity it is important to achieve a relaxed state. Free from judgment and self-criticism. This may be difficult for some. Persist even if you need to be alone at the time. Paint and enjoy the solitude.
For others creating in a group is ideal. No surprise that many art groups get together more for relaxing in a social situation than for making polished art works. Another moment of mindful art could be with your children or grandchildren. This non-threatening environment often makes mindfulness easier to achieve.
The Role of Meditation
You will be familiar with the concept of meditation. The image of a guru sitting in the lotus position, index fingers touching thumbs, in a trance. Ideally levitating a few inches? This caricature has harmed the notion of meditation. Instead consider meditation as a state of relaxed mind and body. Where you distance yourself from the constant frenzy of thoughts in your mind. To grasp this concept you must be aware of the two states of being within you. Firstly your true self. Then your mind chatter supported by the ego.
In a typical day your mind chatter is ceaseless. Feeding you with worries, thoughts and programmed information. Usually supporting whatever anxiety you are fixated on today. Got a spare moment? Not for long as your mind loops the same old program again. Meditation helps you to pause and see all this chaos from another viewpoint. Once you become aware of this fake news you can take control of your true self again. Eventually your mind gets the idea and starts feeding you new thoughts of calm.
It does take practice. This is where creative activities can be powerful. They naturally relax you and help you focus on something other than mind chatter.
Stress and Life
If you find yourself in stressful circumstances then decompressing is vital. We all agree on this. Your profession or life situation right now may take its toll. Painting is an excellent option to explore. I realise that most people have not created art since school. This is not an excuse though.
Too often the lack of expression is not a choice made alone. Environment dictates that you may need to hide from self-expression. In short many people feel vulnerable when creating. They claim that they cannot draw a stick figure. This is fear based on many insecurities. Anxiety for the most part is imaginary yet feels real. Taking action is the step to required to remove these fears.
Mindful creativity seeks to take away these worries. We know that these fears are self imposed therefore it is you taking action that will remove them.
Make a Start
Are you comfortable in a group situation? Do you prefer to start on your own? A friend or two may be a reasonable compromise? A popular method recently has been adult coloring books. Coloring in these images can be relaxing. But you may find better results creating free from lines. More expressive creativity with a blank page, paints and brush.
How you choose to begin is less important than starting. This is the hurdle. Once you start the process begins and you gain immediate benefit.
Journals and Writing
A more complex yet rewarding approach is to paint in a journal. Supplement this with writing short notes or even essays over your paintings. The process of creating images and dumping thoughts in words can release pent up ideas. Release creative blocks and much more.
Julia Cameron is the go to source for daily writing to release emotional blocks.
If you are looking up an art group right now then good for you. If the idea of creating freely scares you then take a first step. All you need is something to work with. A pencil and notebook? Poster paints? Watercolors? Pen and paper? Start with what is at hand. Find a safe spot to sit and relax. Start to sketch what catches your eye. Scribble. Move the pencil and enjoy the feeling of making marks.
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